School teaches students to adapt to Korean lifeBUSAN ― A few days before the new year, 15 children performed onstage at the Community Media Center in Haeundae, Busan. A demonstration of taekgyeon, a traditional Korean martial art, by 11 children followed. The crowd went wild when the children demonstrated self-defense.
The event that night ended with 14 children playing “Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer” and “Home Sweet Home” on plastic flutes. The performers were all first to fourth grade students at the Asia Community School in Busan.
The school first opened in September last year. Six of the 15 students have a parent who is a non-Korean Asian, seven are Korean and two have parents who are foreign workers.
“Before the performance I was worried that the students might make a mistake, but now after the show I am really proud since they have done better than I expected,” said Ham Soo-mee, a 29 year-old teacher at the school.
The Asia Community School is an elementary school set up by university professors, school teachers and religious figures to help mixed-blood children adapt to living in Korea.
Ha Il-min, a 66-year-old former professor of philosophy at Pusan National University, led the establishment of the school. Currently the highest level at the school is fourth grade.
The students learn various subjects including Korean, English and math as well as arts and crafts, music and martial arts for free.
The school is on the second and third floors of a commercial building in Busan and has 12 teachers, of which seven are volunteers. The school is funded by donations from various groups.
Five full-time teachers at the school teach the basic subjects such as Korean, math and science, while arts, music and martial arts are taught by volunteer teachers.
From time to time principal Lee Chul-ho, 45, rolls up his sleeves to personally teach students who have difficulty learning Korean. One of the students taking the special classes is Van Tui Tien from Vietnam, who has only been at the school for three months.
Lilly, a student in third grade, enrolled in October after arriving in Korea from Russia. Her Korean has improved to a point where her friends no longer have difficulty understanding her.
“We are trying to help the students understand each other, whether they be Korean, foreigners or children of mixed-race, by studying and living together,” said Lee Hee-kyeong, 38, who is in charge of fourth-graders.
Park Yoo-bin, 11, moved to the Asia Community School after transferring from an all-Korean school in Busan.
“At first I had problems studying with friends whose Korean was clumsy,” Yoo-bin said. “Now studying with friends from different parts of the world helps me see a glimpse of different cultures from outside of Korea.”
The teachers says parents find their children adapting more easily to Korean culture and having more fun than when they went to all Korean schools. Some of the parents who are not Korean take Korean language classes after the official school hours are over.
Starting this year, the school was recognized as an official alternative education institution by the Korean government and has received 23 million won ($24,902) in financial support from the government.
by Kang Jin-kwon